Adventure for life. Why is it worth going on an exchange programme?

Laurea’s students gathered for a day on Leppävaara campus to share experiences about their exchange programmes and answered questions from students planning to go abroad.

Laurea’s students advised on going for an exchange: Enjoy every minute of your stay, it will be gone too fast. Get out of your comfort zone. Try to live with the locals.

Laurea UAS has about 230 partner schools all over the world and highly recommends students to go for an exchange programme at least once during the studies. Each year 460 Laurea students travel abroad to study for a semester, for a short mobility or to do their traineeships.

Experience different life

The most important thing students gained during their semester abroad was a life experience. Living in a country far away from home, often with a different culture and language demands to leave your comfort zone. You have to learn to communicate and live with diverse people. You mature quite fast and you learn a lot about yourself, some students said. Others added, they started to appreciate more their life in Finland, how good and comfortable it is.

Reasons why students decided to go for an exchange varied. For Business Management student Milla Lindroos, it was because she always wanted to study abroad and she wished to make an international career in the future. She has studied in English at Laurea and she wanted to go to an English speaking country. She chose Canada.

Kimmo Valtimo, Safety and Security management student, chose Portugal because of his interest in the country; he wanted to get to know its culture and people. It was similar for Jaakko Vähämaa, Tourism and Hospitality Management student, who was fascinated by Latin America. His destination was Mexico.

Tourism and Hospitality Management student Ilona Aaltonen, on the other hand, picked Austria because of the specific field of studies the school offered. Ilona plans her career in the wine business and she found an exchange programme in International Wine Business.

Live like a local

Riikka Lindholm from the International Activities office, who moderated the meeting, advised to learn about the culture and the rules of the country and to memorize even a few words and expressions in a local language. She reminded that in many countries small talks play an important role in communication between people.

“People will appreciate your effort and it will be easier for you to get along in your host country. Try to live according to the rules of your new country; live and behave like the locals. You have to be open-minded and ready to leave your comfort zone”, Lindholm said.

This is exactly what Milla did. She lived in a shared apartment with the Canadians and spent most of her time with them.

“I wanted to taste the Canadian life; I wanted to learn as much as possible about the country and their people. So one day, when I go back there I could say, I know your country, I know your people, and I am ready to come to work with you”, she said.

Sometimes you might not have this opportunity. Like Kimmo, whose programme in Portugal was designed only for exchange students. Even though he didn’t get a chance to mingle with locals, he had to find a way to communicate and live with people from around the world.

Jaakko talked about the importance of speaking the local language. Outside the campus he could only communicate in Spanish, hence he ended up studying the language four days a week.

Not only school

Another surprise for Jaakko was the amount of work. He had to study more than in Finland and the assignments were time-consuming, although not very hard. There were exams almost every two weeks for each class.

“It was very different from Laurea, where I didn’t have any exams. But in the end, the studies went very well”, said Jaakko.

Milla had a similar experience. To her surprise the studies in Canada were exhausting. Weekly quizzes, lots of homework, individual and group assignments, midterms and final exams from every course, and she took six.

“On the other hand, I noticed that teachers were much easier on exchange students than on Canadians. Many times they encouraged me to travel, to explore and not to sit in class. They used to say: You are on an exchange programme, you are supposed to visit places and have fun”, she recalls.

After coming to Austria, Ilona was overwhelmed with her new environment: the new place, new school, and the new language. She felt extremely tired. She recommends not to take too much on yourself and relax. She planned to do over 30 credits, but in the end, she did just about 27 and it was still demanding.

Going for an exchange programme is a lifetime experience and definitely worth doing repeated the students. There will be obstacles to overcome, but you will gain a lot. You will get to know a new country and culture, you will have friends from around the world and learn a lot about yourself.

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Laurea has cooperation agreements within e.g. Erasmus+ and Nordplus programmes as well as bilateral agreements e.g. to America, Asia, and Australia. Students can also find their own exchange place, this is called a free mover exchange. It is possible to get a grant for both a student exchange as well as traineeship abroad. Detailed information for Laurea's students interested in exchange programmes can be found at LINK Student intra, Internationality in studies.

Read more about exchange programmes